Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:55 pm on 24th June 1991.

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Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change 3:55 pm, 24th June 1991

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether you can help us with our inquiries into the whereabouts of the Secretary of State for Energy. We expected him to be in the House to make a statement about the pay greed of directors of British Gas and of the privatised electricity companies, who are lining their pockets at the expense of the rest of the country. The Secretary of State told me in a letter at the beginning of this month that this was a matter for the shareholders, but the Government are still a shareholder in every one of the electricity companies, and they are a 40 per cent. shareholder in National Power and PowerGen.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

This is not a point of order.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. How can I determine whether it is a point of order when the Lady shouts in that extraordinary manner from a sedentary position? She should not do that.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

I should like to know, Mr. Speaker, whether the Secretary of State for Energy has asked for your agreement to come to the House to make a statement about whether he intends to exercise his right as a shareholder to object to this bare-faced greed. Will the right hon. Gentleman take action to support the Prime Minister's call for pay restraint, or are these pay increases what the right hon. Gentleman promised those bosses before privatisation? Are these increases the pay-off that follows the sell-off? If they are not, the House is entitled to know what the Government intend to do. We are entitled to a statement—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Member has made his point. I have no idea where the Secretary of State is. He has not asked to make a statement on this matter. The hon. Member's points will have been heard by Government Front Benchers with responsibility in such matters. No doubt the request could be raised through the usual channels.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

How can it be further to the point of order? It is not my responsibility.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is crucial that the House should exercise its remaining powers over these privatised industries. The only reason that we are not being given an opportunity to find out is that the Secretary of State for Energy is hiding away from the scrutiny of the House. We want him here. He is responsible. He has the power to block most of the pay increases, if that is what the Government want.

Photo of Mr Frank Haynes Mr Frank Haynes , Ashfield

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Mr Robert Hayward Mr Robert Hayward , Kingswood

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Mr Frank Haynes Mr Frank Haynes , Ashfield

I am trying to overcome the Conservative lot. Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. You should find out where the Secretary of State for Energy is and drag him here by the scruff of his neck.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Conservative Members believe that Labour Members are playing for time because they were short of their spokesman for the next debate. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) was not raising a point of order.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I hope that nobody is playing for time, because this is a Supply day. I said that I would take a point of order from the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours).

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

May I raise with you, Mr. Speaker, a point of order that I had intended to raise at the end of Question Time? The fact that hon. Members do not rise in their place during a statement does not necessarily mean that they do not wish to be called; they may wish to be called at the end, as I did.

I ask you, Sir, to reflect on what happened today. You will recall that, three weeks ago, there was a statement on pindown in Staffordshire, and that, during that statement, Labour councillors in Staffordshire were repeatedly attacked by a series of Conservative Members and, on one occasion, by a Minister. Will you contrast that with the reflective mood of my hon. Friends today, when, although there was clearly a Government responsibility, we did not seek to exploit it?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I cannot be held responsible for the way in which hon. Members ask their questions. That is not a matter for me. It is only fair to the Chair for an hon. Member to show his interest in a particular statement by rising at the beginning. Today, the hon. Gentleman knew when we were coming to the end of Question Time; other Members began to rise, and he was one of them.

Photo of Mr Barry Porter Mr Barry Porter , Wirral South

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, which you ruled was not a point of order.We have now spent nearly 10 minutes on a spurious matter. Can that time be added to this afternoon's debate? Clearly, the Opposition do not want it to take place, and they certainly do not want to listen to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields).

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On an issue that, tragically, might not be able to wait 48 hours until Foreign Office questions and on which I gave your office notice this morning—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to pursue that matter in this way. Conversations that he has had at the weekend outside the House with others—no matter how distinguished—alleging certain things cannot be raised as a point of order. There will be opportunities for the hon. Gentleman to raise such issues during Foreign Office questions, as my office told him. He must not seek to evade my instructions by getting around them in this way.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

It is not a matter of getting around them. In Kuwait, lives are at risk because of the actions being taken now by the Kuwaiti Government for whom we went to war. They are dumping stateless people at the mercy of those in southern Iraq, and they are doing so with the absolute certainty that those people might have their throats cut before Wednesday. It is a matter of considerable urgency that the people who built Kuwait are being taken—often at random—without anything that we would recognise as a trial, and dumped at the mercy of Saddam Hussein. Is it not up to the House to ask for at least a statement on what the United Nations or the British Government are doing about the people for whom we have at least some moral responsibility?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

It is one thing to ask for a statement, which the hon. Gentleman has now done, but it is another to use a point of order to seek an emergency debate.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

For the sake of the record, Mr. Speaker, will you make it publicly known that, should any ex-Prime Ministers wish to catch your eye in the debate on Wednesday, they will have no difficulty in doing so? I ask that because it seems that the Iron Maiden has yet to make her maiden speech as a Back Bencher.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

That is hypothetical. I call the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes). I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the hon. Gentleman's constituency at the weekend, so I will hear him. [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Frank Haynes Mr Frank Haynes , Ashfield

I am not abusing the Chair, Mr. Speaker. That is not fair.

My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) referred to the fact that the Secretary of State for Energy holds shares on behalf of the nation. If we cannot have the Secretary of State here, will you organise a ballot in the House on behalf of the nation about the increase in salaries? Someone must decide, and it should be our responsibility to do so.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I do not think that there is any precedent for the Speaker organising such a ballot.